UNKNOWN MASTER, Flemish
(active 1490s in Bruges)

Diptych with a Man at Prayer before the Virgin and Child

1490s
Oil on oak panel, 37 x 27 cm (each)
Courtauld Gallery, London

Both figures are seen in an open gallery continuing over the two panels, which is supported at the back by red marble columns and in the front is contained by a parapet. The Virgin has placed the Child on the parapet, where he turns on his knees towards the donor. Jesus blesses him with his right hand and holds red cherries, the fruits of Paradise, in his left. The background consists of a winding river running through a hilly landscape which is bordered on both sides by a piece of architecture. This vista is definitely inspired by Rogier van der Weyden's Virgin of St Luke (Museum of Fine Arts, Boston), whereas the type of this devotional diptych is clearly borrowed from Memling. The costume with the broad fur collar suggests a rather late date, i.e. after 1490.

The painting certainly shows fine detail but on closer inspection the modelling is rather stereotyped and simplified; notably the slightly blurred shapes of landscape elements poorly reflect Memlingian examples.